LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Immediately after Hurricane Laura made landfall, the Salvation Army hit the ground running to provide help to the community. Meanwhile, many of their year-round resources like the Salvation Army Shelter and Family Store took big hits from the storm.
This time three weeks ago, the Salvation Army Shelter was serving its last meals to the nearly 20 homeless men who were sheltered there before the storm.
“Right here was going to be a small dorm but after the reopening, it was going to be our veteran’s dorm," said Lt. Thomas Marion.
The damage left behind from Hurricane Laura has impacted much of Lake Charles and posed yet another challenge for the city’s homeless population.
“We had our soup kitchen open every day and for now it’s just a distant memory,” Marion said.
One of the city’s most viable resources for the most vulnerable was the Salvation Army Shelter.
“It’s devastating because we’ve been putting so much money to do our renewed grand opening on Oct. 30, to go from 30 beds to 52 beds to help out the community,” Marion said. "So it was real devastating and hurt a lot. "
New bathrooms, offices, and spaces for work programs - all gutted again and starting from scratch.
“It’s not just a place for homeless people but for people who hit hard times and need to get back on their feet and find their way," Marion said. "It’s a place of hope.”
That hope is now delayed.
Before Laura, the shelter was undergoing an expansion so that it could house more people while also meeting COVID-19 guidelines.
“We had 17 here when we closed," Marion said. "We usually do 30 but with COVID restrictions we could only do 17. Right now we have no place for them to come back to and that’s a sad thing.”
Marion says they were able to safely evacuate those 17 people to shelters in Baton Rouge. Since the Salvation Army is the largest shelter in the Lake Area, they’re hoping to get it back up and running for the people who need it most.
“We had one guy move out the week before the storm," Marion said. "He had got custody of his child and was able to get his own home. Stories like that are what make a difference. Seeing those things is what keeps us going here.”
Marion said starting the rebuilding process all over again won’t be easy, but it’s necessary for the community.
“I had a staff member ask me yesterday if we were going to rebuild, I told her we have to rebuild, there’s no choice," he said. "It’s not gonna be today or tomorrow but we’re going to get it back to where it needs to be.”
As crews continue working to gut out the shelter located on Legion Street, Marion says their attention now turns to finding a large enough kitchen to cook the meals that they’ve been serving to the community since Hurricane Laura.
The Salvation Army Shelter was set to have a grand reopening in October to unveil their new expansions. Due to the damage left from Hurricane Laura, Marion says the shelter won’t open now until some time next year.